Suggeritore nudo is a ‘simultaneità futurista in 11 sintesi’ written in 1929 and performed for the first time on 12th December 1929 at Teatro degli Indipendenti, in Rome, directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia. The play has a meta-theatrical focus with the actor Mario Applausi, alias Marinetti, as the protagonist. It develops around the theme of the ‘fall of the author’ and unfolds through a series of comical sketches very much based on nonsense and surreal humour, which subvert the rules of logics. A set of stereotyped characters move and act in contexts and places which are disparate and disjointed. A common theme that ties the syntheses together is the character of the Ingenua, as well as the key figure of the ‘suggeritore’ (prompter), who is the object of a critique, as the futurists want to abolish this figure, in favour of actors’ freedom of expression and invention. Simultanina is a ‘divertimento futurista in 16 sintesi’, performed for the first time at Teatro Manzoni, in Milan, on 10th May 1931, directed by Marinetti. Simultanina, the protagonist, is an aeropittrice and her name comes from the multiple, divergent sides of her personality. The action revolves around the presentation of her many suitors, who correspond to the different aspects of her identity. Ricostruire l’Italia con architettura futurista Sant’Elia is the last play by Marinetti, written between 1926 and 1932 and never performed. It stages the conflict between futurists and passéists, opposing Venice, Città Trapassata, capital of the passéism, to the modern city Sant’Elia, modelled upon the architect Sant’Elia’s drawings of the ‘new city’. The front of modernity is made up of the Velocisti, who symbolize the futurists, and the Spaziali, who represent rationalist architects.
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The three plays in question are examples of the futurist ‘synthetic theatre’, for which a Manifesto was written in 1915 by Marinetti, Emilio Settimelli, and Bruno Corra (printed and translated into English in Rainey, Poggi and Wittman 2009, 204-209). Synthetic meant not only ‘very brief’ but also simultaneous and autonomous: into a few words and gestures, the futurists aimed to ‘compress innumerable situations, sensibilities, ideas, sensations, facts, and symbols’ (205). Besides referring to the simultaneous presence of characters (or personalities, like in Simultanina), situations, and places which did not necessarily have straightforward connections with each other, ‘simultaneity’ also alluded to the practice of improvisation and ‘lightninglike intuition’ which performances were based on, while ‘autonomy’ suggested complete freedom from theatrical conventions. Synthetic theatre, marked by ‘essential and synthetic brevity’, was, indeed, conceived as an effort of renewal and rationalization of traditional theatrical practice, defined ‘passéist’. This was, in the view of the futurists, weighed down by the obsession with technique, which obliged authors to follow conventions entailing, among other things, stretching theatrical ideas over many acts, when they could have been expressed more swiftly, and shaping storylines and characters according to conventional, dragged out patterns. With one of his customary lists of adjectives, Marinetti described passéist theatre as ‘too prolix, analytic, pedantically psychological, explanatory, diluted, detailed, static’ (204).
In theorizing this dramatic form, the Futurists were animated by a strong belief in theatre as the most popular art form, with a great potential to reach out to people and influence the Italian public: ‘[…] we think that the only way that Italy can be influenced today is through the theatre. In fact 90 percent of Italians go to the theatre, whereas only 10 percent read books and magazines’ (204). Synthetic theatre also aimed at renewing the relationship between the actors and the public, the performance and its audience, through a radical scenic renewal which is reminiscent of Pirandello’s experimentations in Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore) and the ‘theatre within the theatre’ trilogy. The space of the performance trespassed the stage and extended to the entire venue, involving the audience directly in the performance and removing the ‘fourth wall’ which ideally separated the audience from the actors. The public became part of the performance and their response – even negative, noisy, or even violent – was solicited, keeping with the Futurist approach. Through these practices, Marinetti and the Futurists aimed to not only break out of conventions, but to blur the boundaries between art and life, between performance and reality, and between actors and audience, and ultimately between subjectivity and objectivity. By theorizing a form of theatre which had as one of its main goals the complete involvement of the public and their physical response, they expressed their faith in art’s potential to change reality, in this case by shaping a new public with a new, ‘Futurist’ sensibility.
Antonucci, Giovanni. 1974. Lo spettacolo futurista in Italia. Rome: Studium.
Antonucci, Giovanni. 2005. Storia del teatro futurista. Rome: Studium.
Bartolucci, Giuseppe. 1969. Il gesto futurista – Materiali drammaturgici 1968-1969. Rome: Bulzoni.
Berghaus, Gunter. 1998. Italian Futurist Theatre, 1909-1944. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Calendoli, Giovanni (ed.). 1960. Teatro F.T. Marinetti. Rome: Bianco.
Lapini, Lia. 1977. Il teatro futurista italiano. Milan: Mursia.
Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. 2004. Teatro, edited by Jeffrey Schnapp. Milan: Mondadori.
Rainey, Lawrence, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (eds). 2009. Futurism: an Anthology. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Verdone, Mario. 1969. Teatro del tempo futurista. Rome: Lerici.